Before I ever knew about hit tunes such as “vissi d’arte” and “una furtiva lagrima,” I grew up listening to (and singing along with) songs like “Defying gravity” and “Oh what a beautiful morning.” I didn’t discover opera until I was an adult, and Broadway musicals were a natural step along the way as I evolved from a choir nerd to an opera singer. I never lost my love for The Great White Way, and as I was recently singing a concert of classic Broadway selections by Bernstein and Rodgers, I remembered several of the unique qualities that make musical theater such a powerful art form. Musicals don’t just entertain me; they inspire me to continually hone my artistic and professional skills as a working classical singer.
Last year I was lucky to be a part of a concert at Carnegie Hall called “Broadway Takes The Stage.” The conductor, the choreographer and all of the singers, actors and dancers were working Broadway performers. They added three opera singers in order to fill out a few heavy hitting vocal numbers such as the Les Misérables medley. I enjoyed every minute of working with those phenomenal artists, and they gave me quite an education! Here are a few of the most important lessons I learned from that unforgettable experience:
Rehearsal for Broadway Takes The Stage, 2015
NO COASTING. At 9AM these accomplished athletes threw themselves into exhausting splits, lifts, spins and jumps. Nobody marked his or her singing, speaking or dancing.
NO FEAR. In many theater auditions you have a mere 8 bars to prove your mettle, so my friends have learned to jump into each moment with complete abandon. With such a high level of emotional vulnerability and mental focus required in these auditions, there’s simply no time for cowardice. Everyone brought courage and intensity into the rehearsal studio each day.
NO COMPLAINING. We worked for several straight days of long rehearsals, and on the final day, we ran through the complete show twice before a full performance a couple hours later. I never heard even a hint of griping from anyone.
NO DRAMA. Each performer seemed genuinely happy and grateful to be a part of the project. Jessie Mueller is a Tony-winning superstar, and she was just as friendly and humble as the lowliest member of the ensemble.
NO SYLLABLES WASTED. I’ve always admired the way Broadway actors mine each consonant and vowel for the most potent dramatic impact. The singers around me constantly found new ways of coloring the text of each song for maximum communication.
NO EGO. My colleagues reminded me that our job was to PLAY. When one of us missed a word or a step, we simply laughed it off and tried again. What we were doing was important, but we never took ourselves too seriously.
NO MEDIOCRITY. Each member of the artistic team performed at the apex of excellence. Each choreographed movement was polished, and each sung note was sublime. No one settled for anything less than the best.
My love for opera is equal to my adoration for musical theater. Who says
you must choose between the two genres? I recently heard Leah Crocetto in a glorious Kennedy Center recital where she dazzled us with Strauss and then knocked our socks off with Cole Porter. Attend a play or a Broadway musical when you can. You’ll thoroughly enjoy yourself, and you might even pick up few new tools for your artistic tool belt.